Illustration by Hannah Kneisley.
Phoning in from The X-Files set in Vancouver, series creator Chris Carter says he hopes to capitalize on what worked well in the six-episode revival. Naturally, it was the same morning they began production on a “dark comedy” episode written by fan-favorite writer Darin Morgan. Though tight-lipped about the actual plot of the episode, the often cryptic showrunner had more to divulge on the season 10 cliffhanger ending that sent the passionate X-Files fan base into a frenzy.
Carter had a plan all along, even if there was no guarantee of life for The X-Files beyond the season 10.
“You have to play a long game, but at the same time, when you do these cliffhangers, you suggest that it could also be the end of something,” Carter tells Den of Geek in an interview for our NYCC magazine cover story. “So basically we do what we’ve always done. We’re imagining that these characters have a life lived out in real time. With the show as it ages they age too, and that they certainly could have a life beyond any particular season.”
When we last saw Mulder and Scully, it would have been hard to imagine how much more life they had left considering an alien ship was hovering above them and Mulder was looking increasingly more ill due to the alien DNA strand known as the Spartan Virus.
“When I wrote the season finale, I prudently imagined what the answer would be to the questions we set up,” he says. “So coming back, I really just got to do what I had anticipated and wanted to do. But as is always the case with the show and the mythology episodes, there is a reset.”
Reset is the key word here. With an alien ship overhead and a white light ending the X-Files revival season, it parallels, at least in my mind, a classic mythology episode in season five, “Patient X,” when Scully and a group of believers are confronted with a UFO overhead and faceless men setting people on fire. In the next episode, “The Red and the Black,” Scully wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the alien situation.
In the first-look X-Files Season 11 images that Fox sent us for the story, we see Mulder comforting Scully, who lies in a hospital bed. How did that switch happen, and how did Mulder rid himself of the virus? You’d be crazy to think Carter would give away that information over the phone. He does think the fans will stick with them and let him play it out.
“The audience has traditionally gone with it, which is to go with a kind of tonal shift for the show,” he says. “So we’re anticipating that they’ll go with us as they did for nine years and in the tenth season in 2016.”
The X-Files season 11 is longer, with 10 episodes set to air sometime in 2018, but much will remain the same. They’ll do a mix of mythology, monster-of-the-week, and a few special episodes.
On Darin Morgan’s episode, Carter says it’s “so idiosyncratic and so smart” and “pokes fun at the show as he renders it in a loving way as well.”
Darin’s brother, X-Files producer and writer Glen Morgan tells Den of Geek that one of his episodes is a throwback.
“I looked at it like The X-Files does North by Northwest,” Morgan says. He’s referencing Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 thriller, in which a New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by foreign spies, and is pursued across the country. “It’s not a monster-of-the-week, it’s more like a Mulder and Scully on the run type thing.”
Glen Morgan is known for co-writing some of the series’ most iconic episodes (“Home,” “Tooms,” and “Ice” among them) with his writing partner James Wong.
As for whether The X-Files can stay relevant 25 years after Carter initially started his work on the iconic show, he says Mulder and Scully’s pursuit of the truth could take on greater meaning when we’re living in a time where the world changes so rapidly.
“You actually wonder if what you’re writing today will have any baring on reality when it airs six months later,” Carter admits. “It makes it a challenge for people who want to try and capture the zeitgeist because the zeitgeist seems to be morphing on a daily basis,” Carter says.
Many fans will have high expectations for Carter to create a satisfying explanation for the mythology questions that remain unanswered. Carter knows whatever they put on screen will take on a life of its own, it always has in the paranormal realm, but he still thinks it’s a worthwhile engine for storytelling.
“We could easily just do sequels of popular episodes that played before,” he says. “I hope that [season 11] does what we did last time, which is that we’re not resting on our laurels, that we are doing original material, that we are taking chances and risks.”